Friday, 5 February 2016

Fukuro Japanese Restaurant

I've had cravings for Japanese food all week! After a busy and tiring week, a friend thought it would be good to go to one of the many Japanese restaurants in Central Festival. Central Festival is a convenient choice - close to home and has very good parking, but I felt I wanted to go to a small, homey and more personal place.

I remembered Fukuro. I've been there a few times before and was always impressed with the food and the price. The owner is an ex-Four Seasons chef, and the unassuming Japanese Restaurant is located right next door to the very popular Steak of the Day at Mae Rim Plaza.



Mae Rim Plaza is a bit of a hike from my home in Sansai / Doi Saket area (about 30 min or so drive), but it was totally worth the trip.

This little restaurant only has a few tables, and is very homey and comfortable. Khun Nes, the owner came out and made a few recommendations from the Specials of the Day board.

Eggplant Miso Sauce. 79 baht. These were wonderful and very different from what I've had in other restaurants. In other restaurants that I've been to, the eggplants are covered with miso sauce (which I love as well!). Fukuro's version has just a touch of the sauce and the eggplant is sprinkled with sesame seeds and bonito flakes, which gives a smokey flavour. All the flavours worked well together.  Khun Nes said the eggplants are organic and she gets them from a local farmer in Pong Yang, so the supply is quite limited.



Japanese Pork Hot Pot. 199 baht. This was a great dish for a cool night! Loved the soup, which was sweet but not overly so.


Salmon Sashimi - 99 baht (4 pieces). Beautiful melt in your mouth sashimi. Delicious!


After all that, we had room for one more dish...

Crunchy Roll. 89 baht. This is not your traditional Japanese dish, and it provided a stark contrast between this and the previous dishes which had subtler, softer flavour. The sushi rolls are made, covered in a small amount of batter and fried. Served with chilli-mayonnaise sauce.



And just as we were ready to pay the bill, Khun Nes surprised us with a complimentary dessert to thank us for coming such a long way!

The dessert of the day was.... Strawberry with Marshmallow Toffee Cream. 99 baht. Wow, it was good - creamy and refreshing. The toffee cream was lovely and smooth (with a nice caramelly flavour) and sprinkled with tiny marshmallows. There was nothing left on the plate after we were through with it!


We enjoyed our meal at Fukuro very much. Too bad it's a bit of a drive otherwise I would go there all the time!

Fukuro 
339 Moo 1
Mae Rim Plaza
A. Mae Rim, Chiang Mai
Tel: 0867832034
Opens: 11am - 9pm
Closes on Tuesdays
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/fukuro.fukuro/timeline


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Monday, 25 January 2016

How To Order Noodles In A Thai Noodle Shop

Have you ever been to noodles shops in Thailand and getting something the vendor thinks you want or wants to give you instead of really getting what you want?

Often, non-Thai speakers have trouble communicating with the vendor, so you end up getting what the vendor thinks you want, or just the "standard" dish, which is probably fine.

However, if you'd like to take control of what you're ordering and actually order what you want to eat rather than leaving it up to the mercy of the vendor, this guide is for you!

The Steps

1. Choose your noodles

Here are the more common noodles (kway tiew ก๋วยเตี๋ยว) you can get in a noodle shop:

  1. "Sen Yaiเส้นใหญ่  -  Soft, wide, flat rice noodles
  2. "Sen Lek"  เส้นเล็ก-  Thin, flat rice noodles
  3. "Ba Meeบะหมี่ - Yellow egg noodles
  4. "Sen Meeเส้นหมี่ or "Mee Khao" - thin rice noodles, also known as "bee hoon" & vermicelli.
  5. "Woon senวุ้นเส้น - Clear glass noodles. These are made from mung beans.
  6. There is also another type of noodle soup  you can get, that is getting a noodle soup without noodles! This variation is called "Gao Laoเกาเหลา 



2. Decide how you want your soup

  1. "Haengแห้ง, literally, "dry" - The noodles / extra bits are cooked in the stock, but served without the soup. 
  2. "Namน้ำ, literally, "water" - with soup
  3. "Yentafoเย็นตาโฟ   these are the pink noodle soup. The pink in the soup comes from fermented soy beans. It's generally served with "sen yai" (soft wide noodles) with morning glory and a cube of coagulated pig's blood. You can always take out the blood if you don't want to eat it (or ask for "mai sai leud" - no blood). 
    Yentafo
  4. "Tom Yum" ต้มยำ  - The soup is pre-seasoned with lime juice, chilli powder, fish sauce and crushed peanuts, so tom yum noodles are usually quite spicy and sometimes quite sweet. I usually ask for "mai wan" (not sweet). You can also ask for "mai ped" (not spicy). This is usually available for noodles with pork or fish (not beef).

Ba Mee Tom Yum See Khrong Moo (Egg noodles, tom yum soup, pork ribs)

    For example, I mostly order "sen lek nam" (thin noodles with soup).

    However, when I have BBQ pork / cha siew and wontons, I always get "ba mee haeng" - yellow egg noodles without soup.

    3. Choose your meat

    Generally each noodle shop with have their own specialty. For example, a shop might only sell beef (and beef innards) noodles, some shop have fish balls and fish dumplings, other shops have BBQ pork/cha siew and wontons. 

    Beef Noodles:
    Generally, beef noodles contain beef, various beef internal organs (heart, stomach, liver, etc) and beef balls (look chin neur). If you just ask for beef noodles, you'll get everything (or whatever the vendor wants to give you). If you don't want certain bits, you'll need to be more specific! 

    Kuaytiew Neur ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเนื้อ / Kuaytiew Neur Ruam ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเนื้อรวม = the works! ie. beef + internal organs + beef balls
    Neur sod เนื้อสด= raw beef (quickly dipped in boiling water before serving, so you're not actually eating raw beef)
    Neur toon เนื้อตุ๋น  = stewed, melt in the mouth beef
    Look chin (neur) ลูกชิ้น (เนื้อ) เครื่องใน= beef balls
    Kreung Nai เครื่องใน = internal organs / entrails

    Example:
    Sen Mee Nam Neur Sod  = Vermicelli noodles, soup, "raw" beef only
    Sen Lek Haeng Look Chin = Thin noodles, dry, beef balls only

    If you want to leave out something:
    "Mai Sai" ไม่ใส่ / "Mai" ไม่ / "Mai Ao" ไม่เอา = Don't put in... / Don't want

    Example:
    Baa Mee Haeng (Neur) Mai Sai Kreung Nai = Dry beef noodles without entrails. 

    Pork Noodles:

    Moo sub หมูสับ = Minced Pork
    Kreung Nai เครื่องใน= internal organs / entrail
    Moo toon หมูตุ๋น - stewed pork
    Look chin (moo) ลูกชิ้น (หมู) = pork balls
    See krong (moo) ซี่โครง (หมู) = pork ribs

    Example: 
    Sen Lek Tom Yum See Krong Moo = Tom yum thin noodles with pork ribs. 
    (One of my favourites!)

    Note: Depending on the shop, not everything may be available.

    Fish Ball Noodles:

    Look Chin Pla ลูกชิ้น ปลา= fish balls (which may come in various shapes and flavours, and may not necessarily look like a ball)
    Kiew Pla เกี๊ยว ปลา = fish wonton / dumplings

    Example:
    Sen Yai Yentafo. This will give you wide noodles, yentafo style with all the varieties of fish balls and wontons (if the shop sells them). 

    BBQ Pork:
    You'll see Chinese BBQ Pork/cha siew hung up in the cabinet in front of BBQ pork noodle shops. Sometimes these shops will have pork wontons as well. 

    Kiew (Moo) เกี๊ยว (หมู)  = Pork wonton
    Moo Daeng หมูแดง ="Red" pork / BBQ pork / cha siew

    My favourite is the Ba Mee Haeng Moo Daeng = Egg Noodles (Dry) with BBQ Pork. 
    If you want pork wonton and BBQ Pork: Ba Mee Nam Kiew Moo Daeng = Egg noodle soup with wonton and BBQ pork. 

    Sounds complicated? Here's a summary.


    You can save the picture on your phone and take it with you to noodle shops to try it out!

    Good luck and enjoy!

    PS. I forgot to mention that you can order the noodles in the regular size or large size.

    Regular size = tammada  ธรรมดา
    Large = Piset  (literally, special)  พิเศษ


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    Monday, 14 December 2015

    The Dining Room @137 Pillars House

    What a gorgeous hotel! 137 Pillars House is an amazing property in Wat Gate area of Chiang Mai. There's an old wooden house there with 137 pillars, hence the name. This property originally belonged to East Borneo Company, and around, 1880 the house used to be the residence of the company's superintendents in Chiang Mai, Louis Leonowens, who also happened to be Anna Leonowens' son. The house was extensively renovated after the current owner bought the property in 2002 and the house became the centre piece of a new luxury hotel.



    137 Pillars House's two restaurants are located in this historical setting. Palette Restaurant offers a formal dining option and seats up to 20 guests. I went with some friends to have lunch at The Dining Room, which is simply gorgeous and oozes romantic old world charm.



    Perusing the lunch menu, I notice that the prices were actually quite affordable and comparable to other good restaurants and hotels. The Dining Room offers a variety of Western,Thai and various vegetarian dishes. For example, the Prawn and Avocado Salad (Prawns, parma ham, avocado, mango and mixed green salad on ginger-soy vinaigrette) - 360 baht. Other western dishes include burgers and pizzas. There is a bigger selection of Thai dishes and we opted for a few of Thai dishes to share.

    Pla Thord Nam Ma Kam (crispy snapper fillet basted with tamarind sauce and pandan leaf). This was lovely, and I thought was quite good value at 230 baht. The fish fillet was nicely fried - crispy but not oily, and served with (surprisingly) toasted pitta bread and just the right amount of tamarind sauce (ie the fish was not smothered in the sauce), which accented the natural taste of the snapper rather than over powering it.



    The Green Curry Chicken with Prawns - 230 baht, was also great. Yes, it's a pretty standard Thai dish, but The Dining Room makes a pretty mean rendition. It was smooth, creamy and rich, well balanced with all the right flavours but not particularly spicy. Perfect. Tip: Try the curry with the pita bread from the snapper in tamarind sauce.



    Last but not least, the Pad Thai with Prawns. 480 baht - I know, quite expensive for a pad thai, but we were curious. The Dining Room's pad thai served wrapped in an omelette, some crab meat, and 3 river prawns. There was even some green mango, which was a little unusual but it did give a nice tangy accent to the dish.



    Conclusion
    I must say I enjoyed having lunch at The Dining Room very much. The atmosphere and set up is so lovely and peaceful that I felt like I was transported to another world. Although the food did take quite some time to come out, all the dishes were served at the same time. The food was lovely and I thought quite good value considering where we were. The staff was very friendly and attentive.

    Beautiful grounds

    The Dining Room
    137 Pillars House
    2 Soi 1 Nawatgate Road
    Wat Gate, Muang, Chiang Mai
    Tel: 053 247788
    Opens: breakfast, lunch & dinner



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    Monday, 30 November 2015

    Natwat Home Cafe

    Being someone who's always busy and running around doing something or another, it was nice not to be in a hurry going somewhere and to come to Natwat Home Cafe with the girls after my Sunday morning Zumba class. Yes, we do need to reward ourselves once in a while after a good work out!

    I really like Natwat Home Cafe. It's a cute and chic little cafe, and it's great that it's not SO busy around Sunday lunch time, so I felt like I could really relax and chill out here.


    After perusing through the menu, I must say, it was actually quite difficult to decide what to eat. I wanted to try to many things!

    The prices seem quite reasonable too, for example, a latte costs 60 baht. I decided to go for the sweet potato latte, (60baht)  just because it sounded interesting. What's that? It's steamed sweet potato, milk, maple syrup and served with mascapone cheese. I asked for "not sweet" and it turned out to be lovely. The latte was quite smooth, although there was still a slight grainy texture from the sweet potato. It was worth a try.

    Sweet Potato Latte (in front) - 60baht
    After some deliberation, I decided to try the Baked Eggs, which consisted of 2 eggs, home made meatballs, tomato sauce, tomatoes, black olives, coriander, jalapeno, pesto and parmesan cheese. 165 baht. Incidentally, our meals took quite a bit of time to come out, but when it did (so please be patient!), it tasted as great as it looked. The sourdough bread was delicious and dense, and perfect for soaking up the juices. The home made meat balls were really good, and the black olives gave the dish a nice rich contrast to the tomato flavours.

    Baked Eggs. 165 baht.
    One friend decided to try the Chorizo Sandwich and she said it was very nice too.


    Natwat Home Cafe is a lovely cafe. A place I could go back time and time again. The staff is very friendly and welcoming. The menu has many interesting dishes including various deserts and pasta dishes that I'd like to try. There is some parking behind the cafe.

    Natwat Home Cafe
    330/2 Charoenrat Rd, Watgate
    Muang, Chiang Mai
    Tel: 081 716 1608
    Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Natwat-Home-Cafe/325606954147642
    Opens: 7:30am - 4:30pm  Tuesdays-Sundays
    Close: Mondays


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    Thursday, 12 November 2015

    China Kitchen - Szechuan Cuisine. Shangri-La Hotel

    I've always thought Chinese food at Shangri-La Hotel is excellent (as it should be!). At the beginning of last year, I did a review on the then called Shang Garden. Their Chinese restaurant is now called China Kitchen, and also serves Szechuan food.

    Szechuan food! I was very excited when I received a promotional email about this around May of this year. I suddenly thought of the amazing dishes that I've had in China with the super intense flavours and spiciness, and at the same time, the mouth numbing / tingly sensation from the szechuan peppercorns. Ah... I was in heaven. 


    I have been to China Kitchen a couple of times since May and each time, the food has been wonderful. I didn't do a review then as I was with a client and it was hardly appropriate to take out the camera to take food photos while we were discussing property deals in Chiang Mai!

    I remember though, on my first visit, what really stood out for me was the Fried Bitter Gourd with Egg White and Shrimps (110 baht). These were like soft and fluffy pancakes. So good!

    Recently, China Kitchen launched a new seafood menu and invited me to come to try it, and I must say, I was quite impressed looking at the menu of various seafoods, and the prices seemed quite reasonable too. Prices range from around 190 baht for the Steamed Green Shell Mussels with Black Bean Sauce to 680 baht for the Mapo Lobster in Szechuan Style.

    The Mapo Lobster was lovely, and quite impressively presented with the lobster meat (from the body) being used in the mapo tofu. The lobster meat was sweet and firm in the "sauce" of tofu squares (lovely and silky in texture) and a bit of bean paste, which adds another dimension to the flavour of the dish. BTW, the lobster "body" is not there just for decoration! I really enjoyed digging out the meat from the lobster claws (which had been deep fried with a thin, salty batter).


    Incidentally, the szechuan dishes here are actually quite mild compared to what I've had in China. This is probably a good thing because we can eat more of it, and also means that you can taste more of the food!

    Another szechuan dish that I love is the Boiled Fish Szechuan Style. 320 baht. Although I love it, I must say that when I ordered it in China, I usually end up as the only person eating it! I think this might be because there, we get the whole fish, and I guess my friends found it troublesome to pick out the bones...or may be they were afraid it's going to be too spicy looking at the layer of chilli oil on top!


    At China Kitchen, fish fillet is used, so it's very easy to eat. The chilli oil "soup" is delicious on rice and is also quite spicy. I quite enjoyed the almost creamy consistency of the "soup".

    ... And having all these spicy food, it's a good idea to order some cool veggies to munch on while you take a break. The Crisp Lettuce with Sesame Paste. 110 baht. The cool, crisp lettuce was a great accompaniment to the meal (especially when we needed a break from all the other spicy dishes!).

    Last but not least... another favourite Szechuan dish - Crispy Chicken with Dried Chilli. 90 baht. The chicken pieces were beautifully fried, with deep salty flavour and also crispy skin. There's also some peanut to add a bit of a crunch to the dish.


    So, if you're game to try some szechuan dishes, China Kitchen is a good choice. The food is excellent and prices not too bad. They do have some non-spicy dishes too. The staff are all very friendly.

    China Kitchen
    Shangri-La Hotel
    Lunch: 11:30am-2:30pm
    Dinner: 6:00pm-10:00pm
    Closed on Mondays
    Website: http://www.shangri-la.com/chiangmai/shangrila/dining/restaurants/shang-garden/


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    Monday, 19 October 2015

    Woo - Cafe, Art Gallery & Lifestyle Shop

    Woo Cafe.. Here's a rather cool, trendy and very popular cafe on the riverside strip of shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. It's a great place to chill out and chat with friends over lunch or coffee (or dinner).

    The cafe was already filled up by the time I arrived at 12pm, and my friends and I managed to get a communal table on the terrace.

    The ambience, I would say, is comfortable & chic, somewhere you could spend the whole morning or afternoon just hanging out and chatting.

    After lunch, we were able to move to the cool air-conditioned room.


    I agonised over the menu a bit as I was hoping for something a bit unusual. There are the regular Thai food options, salads and various Western dishes (pasta and sandwiches).

    On this occasion, may be I was going through a fussy mood, nothing really stood out (don't you hate that?)... but then, I saw Khao Yum on the menu.

    Khao Yum (rice salad) is a southern Thailand dish which consists of rice (as you would imagine!), various finely chopped vegetables, herbs and spices and tamarind dressing.

    When it came out, I must say it looked very pretty. Each ingredient came separately, delicately chopped in little bowls.There were two coloured rice (the blue butterfly pea rice, and pink rice), raw mango, puffed rice, kaffir lime, shredded dried shrimps, etc, etc.

    Khao Yum - Before
    So it was up to us to mix everything together, then add the dressing! And I must say, it was lovely and colourful! The rice salad was very light, full of flavour of the different herbs, and the sweetish and sourish tamarind based dressing. I really enjoyed every bite. Around 195-200 baht.

    Khao Yum - After!
    One friend ordered the Salmon Sandwich, which looked and tasted great, and comes with a bowl of nicely fried french fries. 


    And another friend ordered the Tom Yum Fried Rice (which she said she had before, and it was very good). Unfortunately, Woo was out of it this time, and a pasta was ordered instead. It looked really good, and would have been good, but I think the chef forgot to add salt as there wasn't much taste to the pasta.


    Overall, I really enjoyed Woo Cafe. I love the chic yet down to earth atmosphere. The cafe has a very welcoming ambience and you feel like you can just sit back and relax and have a meal or coffee and chat with friends without feeling rushed. The staff is very friendly and welcoming and the food is also pretty good. I'd love to come back to try other dishes, as well as their coffees and desserts.

    Woo is on the pricey side (for a cafe), with most of the dishes being around the 180-200 baht mark.

    There is some parking in front of the cafe.

    The lifestyle shop part is also very nice, and has some beautiful home decorating and jewellery items for sale.

    Woo - Cafe, Art Gallery & Lifestyle Shop
    80 Charoenraj Rd,
    T. Wat Ket, A. Muang, Chiang Mai 50000
    Tel: 052003717
    Opens: 10am-10pm


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    Sunday, 30 August 2015

    Hong Kong Lucky Restaurant (Dim Sum & Hong Kong style food)

    When we talk about dim sum in Chiang Mai, there are several usual suspects - Yang Zi Jiang;  Fujian (at Dhara Dhevi); the China Kitchen at Shangri-La Hotel (which now also has great Sichuan food); and China Palace (at Holiday Inn) - which has been my family's go-to dim sum place due to the very reasonable costs and quality (about 30-40 baht / dish).

    Now, we have a newcomer, Hong Kong Lucky Restaurant, owned by the same owners as Hong Kong Lucky Cafe at Nimmanhaemin Road.

    Could this be the best dim sum restaurant in Chiang Mai?

    Certainly the variety is there. Hong Kong Lucky Restaurant serves 35 dim sum dishes, including favourites like Hakao (steamed prawn dumplings), Siew mai, Deep Fried Taro Dumpling, Steamed Chicken Feet in Black Bean Sauce (my personal favourite!), and some other dishes that I haven't really seen in other dim sum places in Chiang Mai eg. Baked Bun with BBQ Pork.

    I must say pretty much everything I tried was great.



    Of particular note:

    The Pan Fried Turnip Cake was lovely and full of flavour. There is a jar of homemade chilli oil on the table. On the first couple of visits, I piled on the chilli oil (I loved the chilli oil!), and it tasted great. On the third visit (in 3 weeks), I realised that the turnip cake tasted pretty amazing just by itself. Actually, on this visit, I did not use much of the sauces provided on the table at all.

    Deep Fried Dumpling with Shrimp - This was excellent. The dumpling skin was light and crispy on the outside, and lovely and soft on the inside. Very nice texture and taste.

    "Lava Custard Bun" - sorry, I don't know the name of this bun, but it's absolutely delicious. Served steaming hot (be careful, the lava is hot!!), the bun is filled with creamy eggy custard that oozes out of the bun like lava when "opened". Mmmm,... heavenly! Perfect as an end to the meal.

    As mentioned above, everything was very nicely done. As we order the dishes a-la-carte, everything comes out steaming hot.

    The atmosphere feels very much like a Hong Kong restaurant. There are even a few karaoke rooms upstairs. The teapots even have the plastic spouts attached to them to prevent tea from dripping.. which I think is a mark of a true Cantonese restaurant!


    As for the price, the price of the dishes range from 60-130 baht, most of the dishes were around 80 baht. On my visits, we paid between  200-300 baht/person, depending on how much was ordered.

    The Kitchen
    Definitely a place we can keep going back to time and time again, especially since there is a whole heap of other non-dim sum dishes. Incidentally, I have been to dinner at Hong Kong Lucky Restaurant as well, and the food is also great. I especially liked the prawn wonton soup (you can choose to have it with or without noodles).

    Hong Kong Lucky Restaurant
    Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hong-Kong-Lucky-Restaurant/136351880030697?fref=ts
    5/6 Soi 7, Ratchadamnoen Road
    Sriphum, Muang, Chiang Mai
    Tel: 099 535 8883
    Parking is a little difficult, but the restaurant saves 3 parking spots for customers in front.



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